The Master Key

Page 35

Many were killed outright, while others fell wounded to be trampled upon by those who pressed on from the rear.

Rob maintained his position in the front rank, but escaped all injury through the possession of the Garment of Repulsion. But he took an active part in the fight and pressed the button of the electric tube again and again, tumbling the enemy into heaps on every side, even the horses and camels falling helplessly before the resistless current of electricity.

The Tatars shouted joyfully as they witnessed this marvelous feat and rushed forward to assist in the slaughter; but the boy motioned them all back. He did not wish any more bloodshed than was necessary, and knew that the heaps of unconscious Turks around him would soon recover.

So he stood alone and faced the enemy, calmly knocking them over as fast as they came near. Two of the Turks managed to creep up behind the boy, and one of them, who wielded an immense simitar with a two-edged blade as sharp as a razor, swung the weapon fiercely to cut off Rob's head. But the repulsive force aroused in the Garment was so terrific that it sent the weapon flying backwards with redoubled swiftness, so that it caught the second Turk at the waist and cut him fairly in two.

Thereafter they all avoided coming near the boy, and in a surprisingly short time the Turkish forces were entirely conquered, all having been reduced to unconsciousness except a few cowards who had run away and hidden in the cellars or garrets of the houses.

The Tatars entered the city with shouts of triumph, and the chief was so delighted that he threw his arms around Rob's neck and embraced him warmly.

Then began the sack of Yarkand, the fierce Tatars plundering the bazaars and houses, stripping them of everything of value they could find.

Rob searched anxiously among the bodies of the unconscious Turks for the two men who had robbed him, but neither could be found. He was more successful later, for in running through the streets he came upon a band of Tatars leading a man with a rope around his neck, whom Rob quickly recognized as one of the thieves he was hunting for. The Tatars willingly allowed him to search the fellow, and in one of his pockets Rob found the Record of Events.

He had now recovered all his property, except the traveling machine, the one thing that was absolutely necessary to enable him to escape from this barbarous country.

He continued his search persistently, and an hour later found the dead body of the third robber lying in the square in the center of the city. But the traveling machine was not on his person, and for the first time the boy began to give way to despair.

In the distance he heard loud shouts and sound of renewed strife, warning him that the Turks were recovering consciousness and engaging the Tatars with great fierceness. The latter had scattered throughout the town, thinking themselves perfectly secure, so that not only were they unprepared to fight, but they became panic-stricken at seeing their foes return, as it seemed, from death to life. Their usual courage forsook them, and they ran, terrified, in every direction, only to be cut down by the revengeful Turkish simitars.

Rob was sitting upon the edge of a marble fountain in the center of the square when a crowd of victorious Turks appeared and quickly surrounded him. The boy paid no attention to their gestures and the Turks feared to approach him nearly, so they stood a short distance away and fired volleys at him from their rifles and pistols.

Rob glared at them scornfully, and seeing they could not injure him the Turks desisted; but they still surrounded him, and the crowd grew thicker every moment.

Women now came creeping from their hiding places and mingled with the ranks of the men, and Rob guessed, from their joyous chattering, that the Turks had regained the city and driven out or killed the Tatar warriors. He reflected, gloomily, that this did not affect his own position in any way, since he could not escape from the oasis.

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